From the Editor's Chair - v8

19 December 2003

As policymakers in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom (the Axis of Bureaucracy?) wind down for the holidays, all attention in the I-gaming circles turns to advertising and efforts to block it.

We start in Australia, where Baggy Green, the official Web site for Australian cricket, has moved its Internet server from Australia to the United Kingdom. Ninemsn, Baggy Green's parent company and a spoke in the massive wheels of both PBL and Microsoft, says the move was to achieve better download speeds, but an investigation in May by the Australian Federal Police and Ninemsn's decision to keep all of its other Web sites in Australia tell us otherwise. I suppose Ninemsn has to say what it has to say, but this one's pretty obvious.

Onto the United States, where we wait for the Department of Justice to sort through all it has scooped up in the enormous net cast on Web portals, radio stations and other media outlets that have carried advertising for online gambling services between 1997 and present. There were some very interesting discussions on the topic last week at the Interactive Gaming and Entertainment Forum in the Bahamas. U.S.-based attorneys Lawrence Walters and Patrick O'Brien, both on the program, are convinced the industry needs to fight back by seeking a declaratory judgment in the courts. A lot of parties need to get organized to make it happen, but the first step is finding heavy hitters in both the broadcasting and online gambling industries to step up to the plate. There's obviously not a lot of information available out there, but those who are privately suffering under the crackdown and too small to fight back can be assured that efforts are being made to get the ball rolling. From what I'm hearing, there's a decent chance we'll see some progress in this area soon.

Considering how hard good advertising opportunities are to come by these days, BetWWTS's "Survivor" bets suddenly look like a very worthwhile loss leader. The Caribbean-based online sports book took a $40k hit thanks to insider betting on the popular show, but the story is all over the mainstream news, and the publicity, I'm sure, has translated to a lot of bang for BetWWTS's advertising buck.

Meanwhile, the worlds of sport and betting are colliding in Northern Europe, where the latest battlefield in the war between Ladbrokes and Finland is two narrow strips of laminate wood and fiberglass. Finnish ski jumper Matti Hautamäki wants to display Ladbrokes ads on his skis, but the Finnish Ski Association, taking a page from the NFL's book, says the space is reserved for Finland's gambling monopoly, Oy Veikkaus. Perhaps Ladbrokes should counter by taking a page out of Golden Palace's book. Anyone out their interested in streaking a Finnish alpine event in the dead of winter?

Speaking of Ladbrokes' assault on European monopolies, there's something about the leading U.K. bookmaker's mission to open up the markets that doesn't quite make sense to me. Let us review: A very successful gambling operator comes into markets offering better deals than what existing operators are able to offer. The existing operators, under siege, cling to antiquated laws that protect them, while the "outsider" insists that it's time to open up the markets. That's admirable, but why, then, is Ladbrokes such an adamant opponent of what Betfair is doing?

Another development to keep an eye on. . . The recent deal struck between European Gaming and Entertainment Systems (EGET) and Spordiennustus AS to bring Internet sports bettors to consumers in Slovenia is big for a couple of reasons. First, it marks yet another rung in the ladder that EGET is climbing toward solidifying itself as Northern Europe's dominant gaming software supplier. Second, the fact that Spordiennustus AS is partially owned by the Estonian Olympic Committee is very intriguing. I have a feeling this one will ruffle some feathers.

And in the useless observations department. . . Two very lucrative forms of entertainment--reality TV and casino gambling--have crossed paths in the new reality TV show "Casino," which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of casino operators. I'm not sure how much the show means to those outside the gambling industry, but I'm very curious to see how it goes. Unfortunately, it might find itself buried by the hoopla of "The Simple Life," the mega-hit reality show that has Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie living day to day in a small town in Arkansas. What they really should have done is combine the shows by injecting Paris Hilton into the private life of a casino operator and putting it on tape. . . Oh wait, that's already been done.

Finally, I close this week on a very sad note. A lot of nice things have been said in the last day about eCOGRA's Julie Sidwell, who sadly passed away Wednesday at her home in Houston. Clearly she meant a lot to many in the industry. I can't claim to be a close friend, but I can say that the IGN staff and the rest of River City Group were very fond of her. She was a regular attendee and one-time speaker at River City Group events, and we found her to be a delightful person as well as a hard worker who was dedicated to improving the industry. Her contributions will not be forgotten. My deepest condolences go out to her surviving husband Herb and the rest of the family.

Mark Balestra

Mark Balestra is the Managing Director at BolaVerde Media Group. He previously worked at Clarion Gaming and the River City Group where he was the publisher of iGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.